AR-News: (UK) Unravelling what makes mammals tick

Animalara2003 at Animalara2003 at
Fri Apr 9 22:03:05 EDT 2004


WHAT is the link between a tiny fly that lives on rotting fruit, a minute 
worm that lives in the soil and eats bacteria, a fish that is a delicacy in 
Japan, the common house mouse and the human being? These are the first five animals 
that have had their entire set of genes decoded from their DNA, the chemical 
from which genes are made. 

These gene sets are called "genomes" and biology, it seems, is genome-crazy. 
Just last week the genome of the rat was unveiled; coming soon are the genomes 
of chimpanzees, a tropical fish and chickens; not too far behind are honey 
bees, sea urchins, dogs and cows. So why are geneticists decoding genomes - and 
what does it mean for mankind? 

There is one very simple reason why we are decoding - or "sequencing" - 
genomes - the fact that we can. The technology used for reading the genes has 
plummeted in price and in factory-like sequencing centres, such as the Wellcome 
Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, rows of robots work round the clock to 
deliver the data. At the same time, the massive computing power needed to 
assemble and interpret the information has also become much cheaper. Computer "farms" 
crunch the billions of letters that spell out the genes in DNA, and put the 
information out on to the internet, automatically labelled with where the genes 
are and even what they might be doing. 

full story: 
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